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Recent scholarly debate about the Glorious Revolution has put renewed focus on the fear of a new aggressive Catholic confessionalism that was widespread among English and European Protestants. One important example is the threat of an imminent French-led joint Catholic aggression against the Netherlands and other Protestant states. This fear was shared by William of Orange and contributed to his decision to risk invading England in the autumn of 1688. Thanks to new archival sources, it is clear that Emperor Leopold contributed substantially to increasing this fear. In July 1688, the imperial government informed William of Orange about unprecedented French offers to Leopold to win over the emperor for a new Catholic alliance. Almost certainly these offers were fictitious, but nevertheless they had an alarming effect on William: he was convinced that an autonomous, ‘uncontrolled’ development in England (regardless of whether it would lead to a ‘popish’ despotism or to a Protestant republic) would only benefit France and should be avoided in this decisive situation. Consequently, after July 1688 William and his diplomats repeatedly referred to the supposed ‘indiscretions’ from Vienna to demonstrate the necessity of intervening in England.

Corresponding author
Philipps-Universität Marburg, Seminar für Neuere Geschichte, Wilhelm-Röpke-Str. 6 C, D-35032 Marburg/Lahn,
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I am greatly indebted to the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, which generously supported the archival research in Vienna, The Hague, London, Paris, and Marburg.

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1 Pincus, S., 1688: the first modern revolution (New Haven, CT, and London, 2009), pp. 179217.

2 Ibid., pp. 179–217.

3 Ibid., pp. 330–2.

4 Formally, William carried out the English expedition as prince of Orange, not as Dutch stadholder. For different reasons, especially those of international law, officially William acted as ‘Christian Sovereign’, who had the right to intervene and to protect foreign subjects. For the official legitimation in the ‘Orange manifesto’, see Claydon, T., ‘William III's declaration of reasons and the Glorious Revolution’, Historical Journal, 39 (1996), pp. 87109. Formally, the States General acted as William's allies. In political and military practice, it was the support of the Netherlands (especially that of the Province of Holland), and the role of William as stadholder and captain general, which facilitated the whole intervention. J. Israel, ‘The Dutch role in the Glorious Revolution’, in idem, ed., The Anglo-Dutch moment: essays on the Glorious Revolution and its world impact (Cambridge, 1991), pp. 105–62, especially at pp. 105–6; Troost, W., William III, the stadholder-king: a political biography (Aldershot, 2005), pp. 195–6.

5 Scott, H., ‘The making of a revolution?’, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 41 (2010), pp. 227–42, at pp. 236–8.

6 In this way, very characteristically, Baxter, S. B., William III (London, 1966), p. 223 : ‘For the rest of the year [1688] he [Emperor Leopold] watched the rapid progress of events in England with a grim smile.’

7 Carswell, J., The descent of England: a study of the English Revolution of 1688 and its European background (London, 1969), pp. 232–7.

8 For recent treatments of these negotiations see D. Onnekink, ‘The last war of religion: the Dutch and the Nine Years War’, in idem, ed., War and religion after Westphalia, 1648–1713 (Farnham, 2009), pp. 69–88; idem, The Anglo-Dutch favourite: the career of Hans Willem Bentinck, 1st earl of Portland (1649–1709) (Aldershot, 2007), pp. 3662; Carswell, The descent of England, pp. 155–63; Höbelt, L., ‘Imperial diplomacy and the Glorious Revolution’, Parliaments, Estates and Representations, 11 (1991), pp. 61–7. Still very useful are the older works by Grew, M. E., William Bentinck and William III (prince of Orange): the life of Bentinck earl of Portland from the Wellbeck correspondence (London, 1924); Japikse, N., Correspondentie van Willem III en van Hans Willem Bentinck, eersten Graaf van Portland (2 vols., The Hague, 1927–37), i, p. 2; Klopp, O., Der Fall des Hauses Stuart und die Succession des Hauses Hannover in Groß-Britannien und Irland im Zusammenhange der europäischen Angelegenheiten von 1660–1714 (14 vols., Vienna, 1875–88), iv: Die Katastrophe Jacobs II., die neue Thronfolge und die große Allianz von 1689; Müller, P. L., Wilhelm III. von Oranien und Georg Friedrich von Waldeck: ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des Kampfes um das europäische Gleichgewicht (2 vols., The Hague, 1873–80), ii: 1684–1692, and Wiebe, R., Untersuchungen über die Hilfeleistung der deutschen Staaten für Wilhelm III. von Oranien im Jahre 1688 (Göttingen, 1939).

9 The following remarks are based on the decisive negotiations of William of Orange with the elector of Brandenburg, the province of Holland, and the States General. The negotiations with Brandenburg were conducted by his closest friend and adviser, Willem van Bentinck, whose expositions were reported by the Brandenburg envoy Paul Fuchs on 27 July 1688 to Berlin; Fuchs to Elector Frederic III, 27 July 1688, Berlin, Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz, HA, Rep. 11, No. 1779, fos. 15–27v (hereafter ‘Bentinck to elector of Brandenburg’); the report of William of Orange to the States of Holland (29 Sept. 1688) is edited in the Secreete Resolutien van de Ed. Groot Mog. Heeren Staten van Hollandt en Westvrieslandt. Beginnende met den jaare 1679 en eydinge met den jaare 1696 incluis, n.p., v, pp. 229–35 (hereafter ‘William to the States of Holland’); the report of William of Orange to the deputation of the States General, 8 Oct. 1688, The Hague, National Archives, SG 4030, 8 Oct. 1688 (no pagination) (hereafter ‘William to the States General’). Additional evidence is contained in a memorial (not dated, from early summer 1688) to the imperial court (Vienna, Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv (hereafter HHSA), Hollandica 9, Kart. 1678–89, Konv. 10: 1687–8, fos. 34–42v) (hereafter ‘Memorial to the emperor’).

10 The term ‘nation’ was regularly used during the negotiation as the description of the Protestant opposition to the crown; e.g. see ‘Bentinck to elector of Brandenburg’, fo. 27v; accordingly William of Orange with the term ‘de natie oppositie’; see ‘William to the States General’. See also ‘William to the States of Holland’, pp. 231–2.

11 It was stressed regularly in the negotiations that the deep crisis of the British kingdoms led to a total incapacity to act in foreign matters; Bentinck was convinced of the widespread disloyalty of the English armed forces; ‘Bentinck to elector of Brandenburg’, fo. 20. See also ‘Memorial to the emperor’, fo. 37, and its pessimistic prediction, that the internal troubles of the British kingdoms would prevent the king from doing anything ‘useful’ in foreign politics.

12 Therefore Pincus's, 1688, pp. 332–3, assertion that the States General and especially William of Orange were full of fear for an English aggression in the nearer future and that they saw his invasion as a ‘preemptive strike’ against an imminent English attack is not completely convincing. Quite the reverse, Orange diplomats claimed throughout 1688 that England's internal divisions would prevent James doing anything against the States General; definitely England would be too weak ‘om yets nadruckelijcks tegens den Staat te onderneemen’ (‘William to the States of Holland’, p. 231). This assessment corresponded to the judgement of the Dutch ambassador in London, Citters, who reported explicitly that James II was not prepared to attack the Netherlands. E.g. Citters to States General, 3 Feb./24 Jan. 1688, The Hague, National Archives, Collectie van Citters, vol. 6, fo. 24.

13 See ‘Bentinck to elector of Brandenburg’, fo. 26.

14 See the statement of Bentinck that James could succeed by manipulating the parliamentary election, ‘Bentinck to elector of Brandenburg’, fo. 17v; in the long run, the king would be able to achieve all his aims with regard to religion and foreign politics (fo. 18). Similarly, ‘William to the States of Holland’, p. 234.

15 See ‘Bentinck to elector of Brandenburg’, fo. 18v: ‘But in case that would happen and the English nation would have the upper hand without the prince's [of Orange] support, then England would turn itself into a republic.’ ‘William to the States of Holland’, p. 231; cf. verbatim in ‘William to the States General’; ‘Memorial to the emperor’, fo. 41r–41v.

16 It was seen as self-evident that an English republic would be a strictly Protestant commonwealth. More detailed about the fiercely Protestant politics of such a republic was the ‘Memorial to the emperor’ which pointed out, fo. 41v, that the Roman Catholics in England had to expect a bitter persecution and would be in extreme danger (ibid., fo. 42), because the vast majority of the English population had been taught an aversion to Catholics from the cradle. Accordingly, ‘Bentinck to elector of Brandenburg’, fo. 21v, regarding the permanent agitation of Protestant preachers in England against Catholics. Due to the widespread anti-Catholic hatred of the common people (Gemeiner Mann) nobody would dare to speak in favour of the Catholics after an overthrow of King James's government.

17 ‘William to the States of Holland’, p. 230; verbatim in ‘William to the States General’.

18 ‘William to the States General’: ‘de experientie van den vorigen tyt [had shown], wat den staet [of the United Provinces] van soo een republicq’ had to expect. Nearly verbatim in the ‘William to the States of Holland’, p. 231; ‘Bentinck to elector of Brandenburg’, fo. 19r–19v.

19 ‘Bentinck to elector of Brandenburg’, fo. 19. The republic would try to monopolize the whole trade, ‘William to the States of Holland’, p. 231, and ‘William to the States General’.

20 ‘Bentinck to elector of Brandenburg’, fo. 19v: ‘and by that means ruin both Prince and States’.

21 Ibid., fo. 16: Bentinck reported that Protestantism everywhere, especially in England, the Netherlands, and in Germany, was in danger, indeed, in much greater danger than one could have expected a short time before.

22 For the central role of the terrifying vision of the French universal monarchy, see S. Pincus, ‘The English debate over universal monarchy’, in J. Robertson, ed., A union for empire: political thought and the British Union of 1707 (Cambridge, 1995), pp. 37–62, and Pincus, 1688, pp. 339–50. This was also true in William's diplomatic efforts; he stressed in his letters to his German friend Waldeck, who was indispensable for his diplomatic networks in the Holy Roman Empire, that it was the main task of his diplomacy in Germany, ‘de répresenter à tous les Princes de l'Empire le péril où toute la chrestienté est d'une Monarchie Universelle’; cf. Wiebe, Hilfeleistung, p. 4. For the connection of universal monarchy with confessional ideas see Onnekink, ‘The last war of religion’, pp. 84–6.

23 See ‘Bentinck to elector of Brandenburg’, fo. 26r–26v; and ‘William to the States General’, that it would be the present aim of France to ruin and to subdue the United Provinces. See also ‘William to the States General’, pp. 230–1 and p. 234, about the French endeavour to overpower the States General as soon as possible.

24 The envoy of the prince of Orange at the imperial court, Baron Görtz, expounded that clearly to his negotiating partners: the king of France had to be regarded as the real protagonist of all changes in England, because he gained the greatest profit; see Vienna, HHSA, Hollandica 9, Kart. 1678–89, Konv. 10: 1687–8, fos. 90–5 [‘Nachtrag’ 1] .D. [May 1688]. For the mission of Baron Görtz, see below.

25 ‘William to the States of Holland’, p. 231, and ‘William to the States General’: ‘The king of England is only waiting for an opportunity to announce his annoyance about the states and to declare the new friendship between France and England’; ‘Bentinck to elector of Brandenburg’, fos. 16, 17r–17v.

26 ‘Bentinck to elector of Brandenburg’, fo. 16, where it was stated that the victory of Catholic absolutism in England would lead to a strategy for the gradual destruction of Protestantism everywhere. Recently, Onnekink, ‘The last war of religion’, p. 87, has used the appropriate term ‘Protestant domino theory’. It is important to see that William's idea had nothing to do with confessional blind rage: from his point of view a necessary consequence of the fight against the French strategy was the alliance with the Roman Catholic emperor and the prevention of a radical Protestant republic in England.

27 See ‘Bentinck to elector of Brandenburg’, fo. 26v, where he reports to his master ‘that if the emperor joins [the alliance against the Netherlands] or remains neutral, France would be prepared to surrender the Alsace including all fortresses to him and to allow the emperor to turn the empire into a hereditary monarchy’; ‘William to the States of Holland’, p. 231: ‘it is an incontestable proof [of the new French aggressiveness] that the kings [of France and England] had tried to persuade the House of Austria to abandon the Netherlands’; verbatim in ‘William to the States General’; for the promising attempts to impress the emperor by religious arguments, see ‘William to the States of Holland’, p. 231. The sacrifice of the Alsace would not be too great for Louis, because he aimed to compensate the losses by much greater gains in the Netherlands; see ‘Bentinck to elector of Brandenburg’, fo. 26v.

28 The crucial importance of this ‘Libertät’ (liberty) of the German princes and estates for the political culture of the Holy Roman Empire is described lucidly by Wilson, P. H., Europe's tragedy: a history of the Thirty Years War (London, 2009), pp. 23–5.

29 ‘Bentinck to elector of Brandenburg’, fo. 17: ‘By God's miraculous deed the emperor came to turn down the French proposal.’

30 The existence of powerful Protestant allies against France, especially the States General, would be the only reason for the pious Roman Catholic emperor not to ally himself with Louis XIV. Without them, he would almost necessarily have changed sides; ‘William to the States of Holland’, p. 231, and nearly verbatim in ‘William to the States General’. From the point of view of William of Orange, the emperor connected potentially religious considerations with power politics; in the case of the attitude of the prince of Orange towards the emperor, he did not suppose that all Catholic powers tended to apolitical religious fanaticism (see Onnekink, ‘The last war of religion’, p. 84).

31 ‘Bentinck to elector of Brandenburg’, fo. 19v, where William points out that after a successful Dutch intervention, England would be again ‘a useful ally [against France] for his friends and allies and especially for our State [the Dutch States General]’.

32 See ‘Bentinck to elector of Brandenburg’, fo. 27.

33 It was Müller, Wilhelm III. von Oranien, who made known these secret negotiations between the prince of Orange and the emperor for the first time. See also the valuable remarks of Ritter von Srbik, H., ed., Österreichische Staatsverträge, Niederlande, i (Vienna, 1912), pp. 245–52; more recently Troost, William III, pp. 191–2.

34 The relations between The Hague and Vienna had been characterized by mutual suspicion since the end of the Dutch War. The rapprochement in summer 1688 was of crucial importance for European politics until the War of Spanish Succession. From the beginning of July 1688 onwards, the emperor constantly backed the policy of William of Orange, notwithstanding the extremely difficult confessional situation: the defensive treaty was officially concluded in September 1688, when no political observer could have had any doubts about the plans of an intervention of the Protestant prince against the Roman Catholic James II. From the point of view of Emperor Leopold I, the co-operation with the Netherlands was important, because he pursued a very ambitious political intention in Western and central Europe. For a more detailed treatment of the Dutch–imperial relations during the preparation of the intervention see now Kampmann, C., ‘Ein großes Bündnis der katholischen Dynastien 1688? Neue Perspektiven auf die Entstehung des Neunjährigen Kriegs und der Glorious Revolution’, Historische Zeitschrift, 294 (2012), pp. 31–58.

35 Görtz to Landgraf Carl / William of Orange, 2 July 1688, Marburg, Hessisches Staatsarchiv, 4 e 89, fos. 126–8, especially fo. 126v. The decision of the emperor in favour of the Dutch treaty was seen as major political breakthrough by William of Orange. Even the stadholder, normally well known for his self-restraint and moderation, expressed his relief: ‘C'est assurément une providence divine que le M. Baron de Görtz a été envoyé à Vienne.’

36 Ibid., fo. 127v.

37 Ibid., fo. 127 (original German): ‘His Imperial Maj. conferred the honour on me to let me know in utmost secrecy what the French envoy [Lusignan] had offered him on behalf of his king [Louis XIV]: On the sole condition that the Emperor will not support the Dutch States and remain neutral these [French] offers include (1) To make peace with the House of Austria (2) to restore the whole of Alsace (3) not to attack the Palatinate and to renounce all respective claims (4) not to interfere into the Spanish succession and to reach a friendly and reasonable agreement with the Emperor in this respect.’

38 Ibid.

39 Malettke, K., Les relations entre la France et le Saint-Empire au XVIIe siècle (Paris, 2001), pp. 187216; G. Symcox, ‘Louis XIV and the outbreak of the Nine Years War’, in R. Hatton, ed., Louis XIV and Europe (London, 1976), pp. 179–212.

40 J. Ulbert, ‘Die österreichischen Habsburger in bourbonischer Sicht’, in C. Kampmann et al., eds., Bourbon – Habsburg – Oranien. Konkurrierende Modelle im dynastischen Europa (Cologne, 2008), pp. 241–54.

41 A. Lossky, ‘“Maxims of state” in Louis XIV's foreign policy in the 1680s’, in R. Hatton and J. S. Bromley, William III and Louis XIV: essays, 1680–1720 (Liverpool, 1968), pp. 7–23, at pp. 20–3; K. Malettke, Die Bourbonen (3 vols., Stuttgart, 2008–9), i, pp. 200–3. There is clear evidence that the French king held on to the traditional Bourbon claim on Spain in summer 1688. For example, the instruction of the ambassador extraordinary of Louis XIV in Madrid, Rébenac, respecting the accompanying ‘Memoire très secret’, 30 June 1688, which explicitly stressed the legitimate claim of the dauphin to be universal heir of Charles II of Spain; Legrelle, A., ed., La mission de Rébenac à Madrid et le mort de Marie Louise (Paris, 1894), pp. 1735, especially at p. 17.

42 There is no evidence about such offers in the correspondence between Louis XIV and Lusignan (Paris, Archives des Affaires Etrangères, Correspondance Politique, Autriche 63). Louis XIV and Lusignan knew about the real task of Baron Görtz, but were convinced that Leopold would refuse any co-operation with the United Provinces and William of Orange. The correspondence shows that a substantial proposal to the emperor was regarded as unnecessary, not to speak of offers concerning important matters like Alsace and Spain.

43 The correspondence of the earl of Carlingford with the government of James II in London, London, British Library, Add. MSS 4842 (Middleton Misc.). It reveals that Carlingford did not take any action to win over the emperor in the summer of 1688 or to guarantee his neutrality, because he underestimated the danger and showed a remarkable ignorance concerning the intervention plans of William of Orange (and their indirect imperial backing). This ignorance seemed to have been shared by many other envoys of James II at European courts apart from the ambassador in France, Bevil Skelton.

44 See Kampmann, ‘Ein großes Bündnis der katholischen Dynastien 1688?’.

45 For the fiercely anti-Dutch political position of Kramprich, see V. Jarren, ‘Macht- und Konfessionspolitik in der zweiten Hälfte des 17. Jahrhunderts: Die Berichte des kaiserlichen Gesandten Johann Daniel Kramprich von Kronenfeld über die Lage der Katholiken und katholischen Ordensgeistlichen in den Vereinigten Niederlanden 1667–1693’, Jahrbuch des Zentrums für Niederlande-Studien, 5/6 (1994–5), pp. 219–30. He can be regarded as a member of the court party which has been later called ‘Easterners’. For the activities of Kramprich as intermediary of secret French offers see V. Jarren, ‘Die Vereinigten Niederlande und das Haus Österreich, 1648–1748: Fremdbildwahrnehmung und politisches Handeln kaiserlicher Gesandter und Minister’, in H. Gabel and V. Jarren, Kaufleute und Fürsten: Außenpolitik und politisch-kulturelle Perzeption im Spiegel niederländisch-deutscher Beziehungen, 1648–1748 (Munich etc., 1998), pp. 39–354, at pp. 208–9.

46 On the whole controversial matter of the Palatine heritage, see Boutant, C., L'Europe au grand tournant des années 1680: la succession palatine (Paris, 1985).

47 Kramprich to Leopold I, 22 Apr. 1688, Vienna, HHSA, Österreichische geheime Staatsregistratur, Rep. N, Kart. 71, fos. 161–6, with a summary of the secret French offers transmitted by the French ambassador in the Hague, d'Avaux.

48 For a detailed assessment of the political strategy of Leopold see now Kampmann, ‘Ein großes Bündnis der katholischen Dynastien 1688?’.

49 ‘Treaty between Emperor Leopold I and the States General against France’, 12 May 1689, in Srbik, ed., Staatsverträge, Niederlande, i, pp. 271–6, at p. 275. ‘Articuli separati’ concerning Dutch assistance to the emperor; cf. von Aretin, K. O., Das Alte Reich, 1648–1806 (4 vols., 2nd edn, Stuttgart 1997–2000), ii, p. 32.

50 After the Cologne affair, no one in Vienna (as in many other European capitals) believed that peace could be maintained among the Christian states; Boutant, Grand tournant, pp. 827–8; Aretin, Das Alte Reich, ii, pp. 25–8.

51 Claydon, T., William III (London, 2002), p. 39, who emphasizes that this ‘obsession with France’ was William's lifelong dominant conviction as stadholder and later as king.

52 At the first glance there seem to be some similarities between the interpretation of the ‘pre-revolutionary’ situation in England under James II advanced by Steven Pincus (characterized by two radical opposing political movements, the Gallican-royalist and the Protestant-parlamentarian) and the assessment of William of Orange during the negotiations. In some sense, the prince of Orange expected the imminent confrontation between the Roman Catholic crown and the opposing ‘Protestant nation’ to have an uncertain outcome. The crucial point is that the prince and his advisers saw the necessity to intervene in England in order to prevent both possible results. This was not primarily an option for a moderate via media solution in England for domestic, constitutional reasons. Their position towards England was rather determined by foreign policy, i.e. by the pressures of continental European power relations. That confirms the suggestion of Claydon, William III, p. 32, that the expedition of 1688 should be interpreted as part of William's continental strategy.

* I am greatly indebted to the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, which generously supported the archival research in Vienna, The Hague, London, Paris, and Marburg.

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